It is predictable --- sooner or later in polite conversations the subject will turn to religion. For many people, blood pressures then rise and tensions grow. The increasingly diverse nature of our culture and the growing variety of religious expressions all contribute to confusion and agitation. Just turn the subject in lunchtime talk to spiritual things and religion and watch the tempers flare!
Have we lost the ability for civil discourse? Have we come so far in our religious differences that we can no longer manage our intellectual exchanges? Has our headlong run into "political correctness" brought us to the point that religion has been relegated merely to a personal preference (best kept to oneself), like who one voted for in the last election or one's like/dislike for a particular carbonated beverage? Is this the way our Founding Fathers envisioned future generations to live?
Apparently not! On October 11, 1798, John Adams wrote to the "Officers of the First Brigade of the Third Division of the Militia of Massachusetts." In this communication, he offered that "...we have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge... would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."
So --- our American nation was to be a "moral and religious" culture, according to Adams! How was this to be achieved? Where was the essential school of morality and common religion? What was the foundational textbook for our private and public lives? Not surprisingly, Adams believed that the Word of God, the Bible, was the foundational document for living in our representative republic.
In a letter to his good friend, Benjamin Rush, Adams wrote on February 2, 1807, "The Bible contains the most profound philosophy, the most perfect morality, and the most refined policy, that ever was conceived upon earth. It is the most republican book in the world, and therefore I will still revere it. The curses against fornication and adultery, and the prohibition of every wanton glance or libidinous ogle at a woman, I believe to be the only system that ever did or ever will preserve a republic in the world."
It seems to me that we have two equal and opposite possibilities for living this next week. One of them is to approach life from an experiential standpoint. That is, we can live each day searching for a "spiritual experience" or "warm emotion." This type of living is at it's heart self-centered and ego-driven. It's long on the subjective and short on the objective. It leaves each of us with our own "sheet of music" pursued primarily by the emotions. It's a life in search of an experience --- "how things FEEL to ME."
The other approach to life is the Biblical approach. It centers on the Bible and requires that we read God's Word and heed it. It is not as susceptible to changing emotions or subjective experiences. This is the strength of living that appealed to John Adams so long ago. Living the Christian lives appropriately in our current culture demands that we place ourselves under the tutelage of Holy Scripture. It's honest, down-to-earth counsel and requirements insure a more civil society, livable homes, and a spiritual climate that is balanced and dependable.
The Word of God peers deep inside the human personality, honestly and forthrightly points out sin and unrighteousness, and carefully declares the cure for all that morally and spiritually ails us. Living under the demands and mentoring of God's Word builds good people, good churches, and a truly good society.
Don't let anything rob you of this necessary blessing this week. Read God's Word --- think about it, meditate on it, memorize it, wrestle with it, share it, and let is change your life from the inside out. Don't forget the words of the Psalmist --- "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path." (Psalm 119:105) Live in the light this week!